What’s your background?

My earliest childhood memory was when I was in my backyard, playing in the fields surrounded by tall snapdragons and Easter lilies. My parents had rented the field to Aberfeldy back in the 70’s which was across from Christ Church in Warwick.

My love for being outside and creating art began at an early age and I experimented with various mediums at that time. I would draw or paint while I listened to music after school. After Warwick Academy and BHS I went to boarding school in NY during the 70’s and struggled to find my purpose until I connected with my AP art teacher Mary Gillis. She steered me to the Boston University School of Fine Arts where I was immersed in every medium and exposed to a very high level of intense studio work.

We studied the masters through art history as well as sculpture, photography and 3D packaging design. Soon after I graduated in 1985, I worked for Inc Magazine in Boston. When I moved back to Bermuda in 1990 I worked for an ad agency and self taught myself Photoshop, Quark Express (InDesign) and Freehand (now Illustrator). In the mid 90’s I worked for the Marketing Department at BNTB and then finally moved to my family’s business in 2000. I am currently Creative Director and help with all aspects of design, interior design, marketing, etc. for the Group, including Rosedon Hotel.



Why do you do what you do?

Good question! I ask myself that all the time… Because I love it! Painting outside is extremely relaxing and a place to de-stress from our everyday challenges. Listening to the birds or the ocean while I paint is relaxing and therapeutic and I have found that when I am surrounded by nature it comes through on the canvas. The colours within light and shadow are easier to see when live. To me, light is the ultimate subject. It embodies the pinnacle of all reality.



How do you work?

The best way to find the solution is to start with a small plein air painting of the subject. Small studies of water splashing on the beach (for example Crash site and Roughed Up), help me to work on many other larger studio pieces (Loosely Tide). ‘En Plein Air’ is a French expression which means “in the open air” and is used to describe the act of painting outdoors.



What themes do you pursue?

Mostly landscapes but at the moment I am fascinated by the translucency of water, especially when the sun is out and the water reflects the sky, but you can also see through to the sand or reefs. I would like to explore this subject more and paint from above and below… Maybe take it a step further to abstraction in large canvases. One of my favourite paintings is of my daughter from below the water looking up while she was snorkeling. (Swimming with Rachael)



Describe a real-life situation that inspired you?

Recently I spent the day wandering the narrow alleyways of St. Georges in search of a subject to paint. I had my sketchbook and camera to help me remember if I needed it. Everywhere I looked there was something to paint. Then I saw a tabby cat staring at me from an old cedar window. I found my subject. He was still enough for me to draw him from several angles and to take photos. I painted a quick plein air study and used it for reference for the studio piece. (I see you).



What do you dislike about your work?

When my painting gets too muddy. Meaning when the painting is lacking in Chroma Colour and there seems to be no life within the painting.


What do you like about your work?

My favourite pieces are usually the most recent paintings, probably because I am always learning something new with every painting by studying new techniques and adding new colours to my palette.



What makes you angry?

Not much, I try to look at the big picture and not take things too seriously. I try to be laid back and accepting of others. We all come to the table with sh**. No one is blessed with a perfect life. Anyway, that would be boring.



Name three artists you’d like to be compared to.

Wow that is tough, there are so many great artists out there and in Bermuda. I’d rather not compare myself…. Let’s say I admire their work… especially these old masters of colour and light: Joquin Sorolla, Monet, Renoir.



Favourite or most inspirational place?

I love to paint the small roads of Salt Kettle and its boats and dinghies, as well as the south shore beaches. I also love painting in Chatham, Cape Cod, where I have taken intensive art workshops and my family also owns a home there.



What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Life’s only limitations are the ones we make.



What do you hope your images make people feel?

Hopefully they enjoy them as much as I did while painting them.


If you had the chance to say anything to the world, what would it be?

Treat others like you want to be treated. Show gratitude and believe in something bigger than yourself. Have a moral compass.



How do you challenge yourself in your work?

I made a goal for myself to attend at least two intensive Plein air oil painting workshops every year for 5 years. They were and are incredibly tough and at times very frustrating, but the effort has been well worth the results. Whenever I return from one I feel like my work suffers slightly as I take on new colours or methods for painting; whether it be with a new palette or to paint solely with a palette knife. It’s a learning curve, but after a couple of months I can see the difference in my work. My painting becomes more intuitive, less managed. This summer I will be attending Kathy Anderson’s plein air workshop which will focus more on flora and fauna. 

I have also been painting nockturns lately (night paintings). At first it was very difficult to figure out the lighting for my palette, but in fact it is far easier than painting by day. At night the light remains the same, by day the sun moves so the shadows change as we
ll as colours within those shadows. Typically early in the day is best to paint & I can use a full spectrum palette, like the rainbow, as the day progresses the colours become less intense. Late afternoon is also perfect to paint since the light turns golden and everything seems to glow. Again time is fleeting and changes rapidly.





How do you understand the balance between your own privacy and being open in sharing your work?

A couple of weeks ago I was painting on the beach under a cliff so the shadow from it would shelter my painting from the sun. While I was painting a few families with kids and a couple stopped by to see what I was doing and to chat with me about Bermuda and the art world here. This is always the most rewarding part of painting outside; meeting visitors to the island and talking about our island, the people and the art community.


What is the main challenge you face when beginning a painting?

The focus within the painting and the composition, but once I get set up, do my sketches and all my paint is out on the palette, I’m usually in the flow. I like to pre mix my colours and match them with the scene since the light changes so quickly. Ideally we want to complete a plein air painting within a couple of hours so that we don’t chase the light.


How do you manage balancing work/life?

I have to admit it is tough sometimes. I am the type of person that has a lot of different projects on at the same time. Work, family and fine art—lots of creative thinking, designing and planning. It makes life exciting and challenging. Back in my late twenties I set a goal for myself that when my kids went off to college, I would get back into painting in a big way. I would try to paint every day if I could… 10,000 hours was a long way away. Now that the kids are away it is much easier to balance my passion for painting with work and family life. When the kids are home, I will sometimes take my paints to the beach and paint, so that we can still be together.





Where can people see your work?



If someone wanted to purchase your work or commission you how can they best contact you?

E-mail: leepetty@me.com or call 441-705-2323.